BOSTON, March 16 (UPI) -- U.S. medical scientists say they've developed a laboratory technique that improves on traditional methods of screening potential anti-cancer drugs.
The researchers at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute said their technique more closely simulates the real-world conditions in which tumor cells mingle with the body's normal cells.
"Despite their often impressive results in the laboratory, for every 100 potential anti-cancer therapies administered in patients in clinical trials, only about eight prove safe and effective enough to receive Food and Drug Administration approval," said the study's senior author, Dr. Constantine Mitsiades of Dana-Farber, a teaching affiliate of the Harvard Medical School.
In conventional drug screenings, cancer cells are exposed to compounds under laboratory conditions in which only tumor cells are present. The compounds that prove best at killing tumor cells are then earmarked for further study. But, Mitsiades said, in the human body, tumor cells don't grow in isolation, but come in contact with a wide variety of non-malignant cells that can produce substances known as growth factors. Tumor cells can take advantage of the growth factors to fuel their own development.
The new technique co-cultures tumor and normal cells, but unlike similar methods does not involve radioactivity or time-consuming data capture.
The research is reported in the early online edition of the journal Nature Medicine.